Asteroid and comet impact subject at observatory

By John Lee

Matthew McAlilly says the best part of getting into astronomy is seeing how big and beautiful the universe and God’s creations are by looking through a telescope.

McAlilly moved to Gluckstadt four years ago and began volunteering at the French Camp Academy’s Rainwater Observatory last summer.

This Friday, the observatory is offering a free program called “Impact: Solar System Encounters” that explores the impacts of asteroids and comets that have shaped the solar system.

The program, led by Rainwater director Edwin Faughn, covers information on the impacts and craters left by asteroids and comets and how they have affected life on Earth.

The Rainwater Observatory and Planetarium, organized in 1985, is an educational department of the Académie des Camps de France. It was a consequence of their desire to enjoy “heavens proclaiming the glory of God.”

Away from ambient city lights, the observatory site sits atop an open ridge on French Camp’s Rainwater Farm property.

The observatory, the largest in the state, is sprawling and has more than 25 telescopes as well as other optical instruments.

Their largest telescopes are a 32-inch Tectron with a Servocat and ArgoNavas automation system and a powerful 25-inch fully automated Ritchey-Chretien Sangre telescope and control room with a long focal length and high-resolution 6 inches. piggyback.

They also have two 20-inch Dobsonian telescopes that offer spectacular views of the skies.

Faughn let McAlilly borrow a telescope last year. “That was all it took to heighten my interest in astronomy,” McAlilly said.

“My family has a pest control business, and I helped the observatory through that,” he said.

McAlilly said it was a very easy drive from Madison to get to the observatory. Take the Natchez Trace for one hour and 45 minutes to the French camp and the observatory is less than a mile away.

“Knowing that the planets and stars we’re looking at are millions of miles away is mind-boggling,” McAlilly said.

During the summer McAlilly saw planets like Jupiter and Saturn, and things like the Orion Nebula during the winter.

The observatory has high-powered telescopes, and it’s amazing to get a view of Jupiter and Saturn through them, he said.

Originally from South Jackson, McAlilly and his wife Bri have two daughters, Marley and Alanna. He helps run McAlilly Pest Control which his father founded in 1988. His mother Suzanne still looks after the books and his father is still in the business.

Faughn will teach about how asteroid and comet impacts not only left massive craters on the Moon and other solar system bodies, but also dramatically affected life on Earth.

“I get the greatest joy from sharing the wonders of the universe with people,” Faughn said. “The universe is so amazing and incredibly vast, and we are just a tiny part of something that none of us can fully comprehend. This program is very humbling and sobering in terms of the gauntlet we pass through and the large number of objects with which we interact.

Faughn said realizing the amount and size of objects Earth passes through each year is telling since these objects occasionally hit our planet.

“When you look at the sky at night, you don’t see points of light, you see physical places in the universe, and that’s fascinating,” Faughn said. For many years, the universe has been a strong and motivating interest in my life. Whether I’m gazing at a beautiful green field, studying the remains of an ancient fossilized life form, or peering into the vast expanse of the heavens, I am amazed by incredible beauty and elegant design.

“As an artist and speaker, much of my greatest pleasure comes from marveling at such magnificent and awe-inspiring work and sharing it with others as faithfully as my growing knowledge, skills and imagination do. allow,” he said.

Faughn has presented hundreds of programs to diverse audiences including universities, museums, schools, airlines, conferences, churches, civic groups, senior and youth groups, scouts and various other organizations such as the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute, Federal Express World Headquarters, Pink Palace Family Of Museums, Sharpe Planetarium, Arkansas State University, Mississippi State University, University of Mississippi, Arkansas State University, and Initiative and Crew Training International.

His original work has also been featured in and on the covers of international space science magazines, books, exhibits and planetarium productions such as Scientific American, Federal Express World Headquarters and Johnson Space Center in Houston, in Texas, and can be found at

The Stormwater Observatory and Planetarium is located one mile east of the Natchez Trace Parkway off the MS 413 highway near French Camp. The program begins at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 11.

For more information, visit or call them at (662) 547-7283. You can also email them at

Jessica C. Bell